Field Sobriety Tests
DWI Defense Attorney in Houston, Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Galveston, Harris & Montgomery Counties
Those suspected of driving while intoxicated may be put through one of a battery of tests called the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST). The kinds of tests include Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, One-Legged Stand, and Walk-and-Turn. These tests are used roadside by police officers to determine if suspects have greater blood alcohol concentrations than the legal limit. Failing any of these tests could have serious financial and legal repercussions.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
The term “nystagmus” refers to a rapid, involuntary side-to-side jerking of the eyes, and the person experiencing the nystagmus is unaware of the rapid movement. The theory of the HGN is that nystagmus becomes more readily pronounced when an individual is intoxicated.
A suspect is asked to follow the motion of a pen, a pencil eraser or a fingertip. As the person’s eyes move from side to side, the officer examines each eye for several indications of nystagmus.
One-Legged Stand (OLS)
A suspect is asked to stand with both feet together, keep arms at the side and listen to instructions. The subject must then raise either leg approximately six inches off the ground, pointing his toes out while keeping his legs straight. While looking at the elevated foot, he must count out loud until the officer tells him to stop.
During this test, the officer observes the driver for the following:
- Swaying while balancing
- Using arms to balance
- Hopping or jumping around
- Putting a foot down
If the officer notes two or more of these, the individual fails the test.
In the WAT test, the suspect must stand with his feet in heel-to-toe position while keeping his arms at his sides. He must listen to the instructions, maintain his position and refrain from walking until he is instructed to do so. This test measures an individual’s ability to follow complex instructions and complete multiple tasks. The suspect must then watch his feet while taking nine heel-to-toe steps along a line and count each step. He also has to turn and walk along the same line in another nine heel-to-toe steps. Officers look for:
- A lack of balance during instructions
- Walking before instructions are finished
- Breaks during walking
- An inability to touch heel to toe
- Swerving or inability to remain on the line
- The need to use arms for balance
- Loss of balance on turn or inability to turn correctly
- Taking the wrong number of steps.
Although the scoring of this test is highly subjective, if the officer notices two or more of these behaviors, the driver fails the test.
All of these tests are subjective; rely on proper officer training and test administration; and may require mental and physical skills an individual may lack due to medical or physical conditions. Therefore, any individual charged with a DWI after a failed sobriety test should immediately seek assistance from an experienced DWI lawyer such as Greg Tsioros.
Get in touch with the Law Office of Greg Tsioros at (832) 752-5972 to get expert legal advice and representation.
**Recent Updates to Texas DWI Law**
New circumstances in which officers can forcibly take blood WITHOUT A WARRANT:
- accident with mere bodily injury or other person transported to hospital
- arrest for DWI with child passenger
- if officer has reliable information the offense can be prosecuted as a felony